Chad States, Franco. “To be masculine is to dominate in one's field of study.”
Good morning misogyny! This week in poorly executed photography projects, Chad States discusses his series Men at Their Most Masculine at the Morning News. The project is simple. The photographer places an ad on Craigslist reading, “I am doing a photography project on masculinity. If you identify as being masculine, please get back to me.” Then he photographs selected respondents in their homes, and places a quote from the session alongside the work.
The results from the banal solicitation are pretty much exactly what you’d expect—a cross section of various misogynistic statements, peppered with a few other predictable interpretations of masculinity. But States has a slightly different take. “I hopefully have not answered my question of what masculinity is by this project either,” States told the publication. “I would like to think that I have opened it up further.” The clip smacks of the popular art world myth that work with multiple interpretations trumps art with an obvious message. Sometimes it does of course, but too often this tactic places the intellectual work entirely in the hands of the viewer.
Men at Their Most Masculine suffers from this problem, as States never questions the interpretations of his subjects. Franco, who describes the domination of a profession as a means of exhibiting male sexuality, presents one of the most obviously limited takes in the series, but no reflection about what this means is offered. That may be par for the course, but it’s the photography equivalent of doing a Google search for the term “masculine” and only selecting a few results and quotes from the source material. Even if you come up with a good way of presenting what you’ve found, the practice still minimizes the role of the artist’s critical eye. The result, in this case, is a photo essay illuminating little more than what we already know.
Related: Vice divides records into two categories: Music guys like, and music girls like.